Steampunk nearly went mainstream, then nearly vanished

Originally published at:


Just the excuse I need to plug my favorite old school anime:


I see you hadn’t hit Etsy lately. :smirk:


I doubt the majority of steampunk cosplayers have ever held a soldering iron. Crediting them for the right to repair movement is a bit of a self-congratulatory stretch.

I suspect that the free software / open source movement getting locked out of DRM’ed hardware had a wee bit more to do with it.


Yeah, steampunk has gone from obscure literary movement through fashion trend, to end up as costume shit you get at Party City at the mall.


I was being a little tongue-in-cheek, but it certainly hit the mainstream. Past few years it has waned. C’est la automata :man_shrugging:


Maybe…it was kind of a fad, and peaked and declined as such.

Someday it will have a low-key comeback like the ukulele and burlesque did.


Don’t worry, there’s an alternate timeline where steampunk was way bigger.


I kid you not, I got death threats from steampunk scene kids. I bought an Abney Park CD, and moved cities after the purchase. There was a thriving Steampunk forum on Livejournal at the time. (Pre Russian buy out.) I asked anyone there if they knew any contact info for the band who was fairly local to me. It had been months since I ordered, and I was wondering if it had been shipped, but if not could they change the address. The lead singer contacted me, and he asked me to call.

I called to see if they could change the address, or ask if I should just buy a new one. I like to support local works. Paying for a second CD was not even an issue. I literally answered the phone with credit card in hand to do this.

What ensued was the craziest phone conversation I have ever been on. My post was literally benign, asking about if I should just buy a new one, and he went on an unhinged rant about me blackmailing him. It was nuts. He was yelling the minute I answered. We are talking Trump levels of nonsensical crap. What I didn’t know at the time, was he had a rep for doing this.

I was so shocked, I told him to keep his CD, and the $20. I figured that would be the end of it. I was so wrong.

He then released my phone number online, along with my address. Remember, we are local to each other, and I had a week of death threats via email, phone, and had some asshole in a top hat show up to my door. (Not really threatening. I laughed, he looked uncomfortable that it wasn’t going the way he envisioned, and kind of awkwardly shuffled off.)

Then I started seeing Steampunk LJ posts about “that woman” which was me. None of these folks knew I was a trans dude, so I was just “that chic!”

I immediately dumped all steampunk forums, and had to go on troll defense to just get my accounts unclogged from all the bullshit. Luckily for me, Steampunk Abney Park fans were not as interested, nor actually scary. It was annoying though.

To this day, I now wince when I deal with Steampunk things. Which is too bad, because the maker aesthetic was what really drew me to it in the first place. I make a lot of shit, and it was cool looking. I just can’t do it, though. Maybe I have Steampunk PTSD, I don’t know. I totally lost all interest.




I keep reading about steampunk disappearing and I honestly don’t understand quite where it is coming from unless that disappearance is a US phenomenon. I live in the UK and I attend steampunk events. There’s usually three or four within commutable distance on any given weekend and several of them are very large indeed.

Asylum in Lincoln celebrated it’s 11th incarnation this year, with numbers bigger than ever. Standing amongst several thousand people at an event that clocks over 100K people really does make the notion of it being something that is “disappearing” seem rather odd.

As for whether there’s a crossover between makers and steampunks - sure. I count myself as part of both communities and amongst my steampunk friends I’d reckon on maybe 1 in 10 being part of the maker community too. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there was an inevitable move from one community to the other, though.


The nice thing about any ‘underground’ fashion going mainstream is, after mainstream attention fades away, you can start finding the stuff in thrift stores.


Steampunk is and has always been a vision of a past that never was. Funny idea if explored in a well thought novel as Gibson and Sterling did in “The Difference Engine”. Perfectly. Suffucuently. They did not create a “Steampunk” cosmos full of merchandising, sequels, spin-offs and other “Star Wars” plastic junk. For good reason.
Now learn from them, have some reason (and style) yourselves and stop flogging a horse that peacefully passed away after a full life. Holding on to a past that never was is the definition of “reactionary” anyway!


Hang on - all that you’re describing Re: right to repair etc. is cyberpunk, NOT steampunk. Steampunk is cardboard top hats, plastic brass-effect goggles, and fat whiffy blokes with beards that say things like “methinks”, “verily” and “this gin needs a twinge of ambergris. Methinks…”




There’s the Edison at Disney Springs:

And Toothsome’s icecream at Universal Orlando.


Brownlee’s words there, but one of the points is that steampunk was a fashionable derivative of cyberpunk that went démodé along with its historical inspirations. (And now cyberpunk is back)


So Steampunk is obsolete now? :thinking:

brb, off to spray brass paint on stuff.


And goth is back too…

(Video does include multiple top hats.)


As someone who is also a watchmaker, I liked the underlying aesthetics of brass, copper, and mechanism of the movement, but hated the idiots talking fake old timey, and the hot gluing plastic chinese “cogs” to everything, in a way that never looked functional, which the point was to be elaborately functional.

It just became a lot of cheap brick a brack glued to goggles with spikes, and looks stupid.

When you hang out in derelict blast furnaces, antique belt driven machine shops, blacksmith’s forges, and work with antique machinery regularly as I do, steampunk just seems like a cheap knockoff of the real beauty in my life to me.